Today is my turn on the blog tour for the fantastic Cut-Throat Defence by Olly Jarvis.
Author: Olly Jarvis
Title: Cut-Throat Defence
Publication Date: 3 October 2016
There is no man richer than a man without a price
Jack Kowalski is a young and newly qualified barrister, who finds himself working on the biggest drugs importation trial ever played out on English soil. With the assistance of his equally inexperienced instructing solicitor, Lara Panassai, Jack argues a savage ‘cut-throat’ defence – a risky tactic where the defendants blame each other – and quickly embroils some of the most eminent QCs in the land.
As the son of Polish immigrants, the sensitive Kowalski has always found it hard to fit in, with a sense of inferiority and constant nervousness in Court. Now he must face his demons and fight not only for his clients, but for his very future at the Bar.
But when the defendant then unexpectedly absconds, Jack and Lara must fight on regardless, following a tip that leads them out of the courtroom and into Manchester’s seedy underworld – crime bosses, strip clubs, corrupt lawyers and all manner of hidden sins.
As the case grows darker with each new discovery, who in this viper pit of deception can Jack and Lara trust?
Ingeniously plotted and embellished with real-life insider expertise, Cut-Throat Defence is a story of rivalry, ruthlessness and – above all – survival.
Thank you to Olly Jarvis for providing me with a copy of Cut-Throat Defence for review and for inviting me to take part in his blog tour to celebrate publication of the book.
Cut-Throat Defence is the second novel from criminal defence barrister, Olly Jarvis. Having read and thoroughly enjoyed his first novel, Death by Dangerous (see my review here), which was shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger, I was understandably keen to get my hands on this second novel. I am happy to say that it certainly did not disappoint. In fact, I pretty much read the entire book in one sitting.
Cut-Throat Defence is a legal thriller set amidst the sordid background of Manchester’s criminal underworld, focusing on gangland ties, drug dealing and murder. To anyone thinking of visiting Manchester, I hail from there originally and this is certainly a part of society that I have never seen before, however I found it fascinating to read about the dark underbelly of the city.
As with Jarvis’s first novel, one of the big appeals to me was that his books fill a gap in the market with regards to British courtroom thrillers. We have some great legal novelists, however the majority tend to be US writers, such as John Grisham, Robert Dugoni or Michael Connelly. I enjoy reading about the English judicial system, particularly from someone who obviously knows a great deal about it! I also liked how it gives a realistic view of how difficult it can be in the early stages of a legal career – low paid, long hours and struggling to prove your worth alongside your peers.
Cut-Throat Defence is a story of Jack Kowalski, a young barrister whose career is about to end before it has even begun. After being in the ‘right place at the right time’ (or wrong place, maybe?), he finds himself defending a man accused of drug trafficking. This is the biggest drugs trial of the decade and certainly the biggest challenge of his career! When their client disappears, Jack and Lara have to follow the evidence which takes them deep into Manchester’s criminal fraternity and causes them to question the procedures of the National Crime Agency (“NCA”). Jack finds himself pitted against sceptical judges, pompous QCs and threats to his own family. He must push his own fears and insecurities aside in order to effectively fight his client’s corner. He faces a losing battle, but will he be able to come out the other side with his career and reputation intact?
Jack is a fantastic character. As a reader, you cannot help but root for the underdog and Jack is the perfect example of this. A barrister with a serious case of stage-fright. I started with the view that this was a young man who had seriously misjudged his career choice. However, through hard work, determination and a little encouragement from newly-qualified solicitor Lara Panassai, Jack starts to slowly gain a little bit of confidence. However, is it too little, too late in this case?
Lara Panassai is the perfect foil for Jack’s character - young and inexperienced, she is also calm, considered and diligent. Lara instinctively knows how to keep Jack on track his instinct is to panic. However, Lara also comes with baggage of her own that is overshadowing her own life and career.
Cut-Throat Defence is absolutely gripping from the very first chapter. Packed full of twists and turns, I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the verdict. I particularly enjoyed the scenes involving the interactions between Jack and the more senior counsel: Katterman, Otterwood, Bingham, Effiong etc…. I find the community and politics within and between chambers particularly interesting to read about.
As with his previous novel, Jarvis’ experience provides a great perspective to a very interesting plotline. He makes the reader feel as though they are in the courtroom watching Jack perform. The writing style has great flow, ensuring that the reader is faced with a fast-paced and enthralling tale that will keep you gripped until the very last page.
There is a nice bit of personalisation within the story, focusing on Jack’s relationship with his father, his burgeoning friendship with Lara and Lara’s own issues regarding her father’s death. This provides a bit of perspective to the reader’s views of the characters and allows their flaws and failings to be accepted by the reader.
Cut Throat Defence is a brilliant courtroom thriller and one that I would thoroughly recommend to all readers. It is intelligent, fast-paced and utterly absorbing – a brilliant read!
About the Author
Olly Jarvis is a writer and criminal defence barrister, originally from London but now working in Manchester. Drawing on his experiences, he writes both fiction and non-fiction with a particular understanding of the pressures and excitement of life in the courtroom. He wrote the highly acclaimed Radio 4 drama Judgement, and wrote and presented the BBC documentary Mum Knows Best. He is also the author of Death by Dangerous, which was longlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger. Olly has two children and lives in Cheshire, and he tweets at @OllyJarvis.
Finally, don't forget to visit my fellow book bloggers and check out their stops on this blog tour...